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It’s not too often that we remember the anniversary of someone’s death, two decades after the fact.
That honor is usually reserved for extraordinary people, Presidents and Kings and people who left an indelible mark on the world.
Arthur Ashe is one such person, a giant in life whose legacy has not diminished one bit in death. I read on the Internet Wednesday that it’s been 20 years since he passed away, due to the AIDS virus, and I winced in my head; I can’t believe it’s been that long.
Arthur Ashe started to become a hero of mine as I got serious about tennis, around age 10 or 11, and the more I read about him, the more I liked him. A trailblazer as an African-American playing junior tournaments in Richmond, Va., he became a top 10 pro and throughout the 1970s carried himself with grace and dignity, on and off the court.
He was the first African-American to win Wimbledon, a historic event in 1975, and after retirement continued to be a vital fighter against racial inequality all over the world.
And then, in the prime of his life in 1988, Ashe was struck down with the AIDS virus. In his last few years he became an outspoken leader in dispelling AIDS myths (it might be hard for young people to believe, but in 1988 a huge percentage of people thought only gay people could get AIDS) and raising money for research.
I became even more fascinated by Ashe after reading his autobiography, “Days of Grace,” written after his AIDS diagnosis was revealed. Written in simple, elegant prose, Ashe tells the story of his life. So many times he writes impassively about the racism he endured in a lily-white sport; I am amazed at how calm he always kept.
He is one of the greatest sportsmen America has ever known, and I’m thrilled that when I go to the U.S. Open every year, it is into Arthur Ashe Stadium that I walk (though it kills me a little that his name is on such a monstrosity of an arena, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion).
Anyway, I wish he were still around, and so do a lot of other people. Melissa Issacson has written a beautiful article here about Ashe on the 20th anniversary of his passing, and here’s Kenny Moore’s great piece in Sports Illustrated from 1992, when the magazine named him Sportsman of the Year.
**OK, time to lighten the mood a little. This cracked me up; a highlight (or lowlight) mash-up reel of just about every Internet fad that had 15 minutes of fame, or sometimes more, done to the Journey classic “Faithfully.” (And yes, there are cat videos in here).
**And finally, you know I’m always looking for any excuse to declare that newspapers are still relevant and important; it’s the ex-reporter in me clinging to my first love.
Well, this week I heard about yet another way that print is vital and must stay alive: Animal shelters need it to help with their dog poop problem.
The San Francisco Animal Control Agency has been running out of newspapers to put below their new puppies; they have previously always relied on donations from the public, but with fewer and fewer people buying newspapers, there’s been a big shortage.
Thankfully, the local libraries in San Francisco have stepped in (no pun intended) and are supplying sports, features and news sections for young Fidos to pee on.
Ah yes, kind of gives a new meaning to people who say they don’t give a crap what’s in the newspaper.